Throughout the past few years, I’ve kept a weekly gratitude journal on and off. At the end of each week, I would write down three things I was grateful for. When the MBA started, this was one of the past routines that I didn’t quite keep up with. So for this blog post, I’ve decided to do a high-level gratitude recap of my MBA experience so far.
A supportive community
Coming into the MBA, I knew I was going to experience a heightened level of imposter syndrome, being surrounded by incredibly accomplished classmates. However, I’ve been heartened by how down-to-earth and supportive my peers have been. This makes me feel more at ease about voicing my thoughts about an unfamiliar subject and asking questions when I didn’t understand something. I especially appreciated this with my study group.
For context, before the start of Michaelmas term, the whole cohort was divided into eight sections of 44-45 people and, within each section, we were put into study groups of 5-6 people. We took our Michaelmas core classes with our sections and worked on group assignments with our study group, typically on a weekly basis.
My study group teammates reflected the diversity of our cohort – they came from higher education, management consulting, marketing, medical practice, and risk consulting. Even though it was challenging at times to complete the task at hand, I am grateful for all the hours we spent together. We learnt from one another and bonded in the process, as well as providing moral support through our first assessment. This was a reality check – I had underestimated how hard it would be to write papers again after not having done so for eight years.
The college experience
Usually when I explain the college system to those outside Oxford, I make an analogy to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts houses. After all, Oxford is the closest you could get to a Hogwarts experience and is hands down the best place to be for a Harry Potter fan. I’m a proud member of Exeter College, the fourth oldest college at the university.
Looking back, we had Freshers' Week at the start of the school year, which was jam-packed with events, ranging from walking tours to a scavenger hunt and a BOP (Big Open Party). There was also a lovely formal dinner where I soaked in the wonder that is our dining hall with my fellow Exonians, including seven other MBA classmates.
One of the main highlights near the end of Michaelmas was the Christmas festivities at Exeter. I attended the Christmas Carol Service at our chapel, and remember getting goosebumps because the choir’s singing was so beautiful and moving. That was followed by a round of mulled wine and minced pies, pre-formal drinks at the MCR (Middle Common Room), a fabulous formal dinner in the dining hall, and capped off with more wine and dessert in the MCR.
Most of the time I already feel that I’m living in an alternative universe by simply being a student in Oxford but, on this particular night, that sensation was elevated to a whole other level.
Living in Oxford
Having lived in big cities for most of my life, including New York for the past six years, it has been refreshing to live in a smaller city where I can get around easily by walking and biking.
As a history buff and medieval architecture lover, Oxford is a living dream. I can’t understate how amazing it is to have access to study in iconic places such as the Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Old Library. This includes Duke Humphrey’s Library, where a part of the library from Harry Potter was filmed!
My own college library, though much smaller in comparison, is also a gem, especially knowing that there are records of J R R Tolkien checking out books here when he was a student at Exeter.
I also love living in Jericho – I highly recommend this part of Oxford to live in if it’s an available option. It’s very well-situated to reach most parts of Oxford and is dotted with quaint restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops. Jericho is also close to Port Meadow, a beautiful area for walks, runs, sunrises, and everything in between. When I feel the intensity of the MBA getting to me, I can always count on Port Meadow to help clear my mind.
Last but not least, despite the continued challenges and uncertainty, I am very grateful for the progress and availability of Covid-19 vaccines and free rapid tests in the UK, which has made a largely in-person MBA experience possible.
On that note, another key highlight last term was listening to Dame Professor Sarah Gilbert, who developed the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, speak at the School’s Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre. There is simply no shortage of incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences at Oxford. I am constantly reminding myself to cherish every moment here because it is already going by way too quickly.